Autumn will soon be upon us. Raking up and clearing leaves away on a crisp autumn afternoon can be very satisfying; however, for many people, raking and back pain go hand in hand. Raking is a real workout and good exercise! It can burn up to 283 calories per hour but make sure not to strain yourself. Minimising the back-breaking tasks is the best way to avoid back strain.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Arm yourself with the right rake or tool. The old metal rake in your shed might be an old friend and fine for a few leaves, but there are some great new raking tools out there which can save you lots of time. The kind of rake you’ll need and its size depends on your own situation, so ask your local garden centre.
A “clog-free” ergonomic rake with bent handles may put less stress on your shoulders and back by helping you rake without bending over as it stops leaves from getting stuck on the tines. There are also rakes with adjustable metal tines for reaching narrow areas like garden beds and in between plants, or rakes with wide fans to cover lots of lawn with each sweep. Make sure that the rake you choose has a comfort grip handle to reduce fatigue and prevent blisters from developing on your hands.
Leaf blowers, electric rakes, mulchers & grab rakes, can all be excellent alternatives, save a lot of time and energy, and take the backache out of raking!
To prevent back injuries while you’re raking, be sure to stand upright. Switch your main (bottom) hand on a regular basis, don’t overstretch and always bend at the knees (not the back) when you stoop to pick up a pile.
Move your feet! Twisting is one of the main killers for your back. Move your feet and move with the rake as you walk straight back, don’t twist your back or trunk. Try to keep the rake in line with your feet.
Shoes & gloves. Good supportive footwear with skid-resistant soles can minimize the risk of slipping on wet leaves and falling. Leather gloves help prevent the blisters.
Vary your activity: don’t aim to do it all in one go. Just sweep for 10-15 mins a day rather than one long session, or take breaks to stand up straight and walk about or rest and have a drink if you have limited time.
Avoid the wind and rain! Rake when it’s dry and calm. If you have to rake when it’s windy, rake with the wind –or you’ll soon find the breeze picks up your leaves and blows them around. Wet leaves are heavier than dry and take a lot more work.
Patience. Clear essential areas of leaves on an ongoing basis, but don’t bother raking your whole garden until all the leaves are down and the branches are bare – this will save you hours of unnecessary work.
Not all leaves need to be raked up! Leaves left under trees and shrubs will provide winter protection and compost themselves. This means you’ll need to use less mulch under trees and shrubs next spring.
Mulching. On grass you can run your lawn mover over fallen leaves. A thin layer of finely chopped leaves on the lawn will serve as light protective mulch and will quickly be devoured by hungry worms.
Easy bagging! Rake your leaves into small piles on top of a plastic sheet or tarp, then drag that pile to your main pile or compost. Raking into one big single pile takes a lot longer. When the tarp is full, simply roll it up and funnel the leaves into your collection bin or bag.
Compost fallen leaves or use them as mulch around landscape plants. To make leaf mould, simply soak leaves in water if they are dry, then pile them in a corner of the garden and let them decompose. Rough, one-year-old leaf mould makes great mulch. After two years, leaf mould can be used as a soil amendment.
Don’t let your garden beat you, call the Back Care Clinic if you have any niggles before they beat you…